Hotel marketing and design experts shared with Hotel News Now their current tips for engaging with potential bookers and customers through Instagram as well as how to cultivate the same online experience while on property.
REPORT FROM THE U.S.—Social media is a crucial tool for marketing, and hoteliers continue to evolve their strategies to reach the right customer and curate a picture-perfect experience on property.
“The power of Instagram, whether it’s for a hotel or retail, is stronger than ever,” said Gwendolyn Kimmelman, area director of digital marketing for Dream Hotels. “I know that travelers use Instagram a lot as their first touchpoint when they’re researching a destination or a hotel or restaurant.”
She said Dream relies on Instagram to show its followers and potential bookers the type of guests that stay with them as well as the on-property experience.
Social media today, as a whole, has evolved very quickly, she said. And social media marketing will continue to be a long-term strategy.
“Over the past five to 10 years, what I see more and more of is people asking for authenticity and content that has meaning behind it. There’s a lot of people that are doing the same things,” Kimmelman said.
At Dream Downtown in New York, for example, she said her team works hard to cut through the noise. She said it’s important for hotel brands to let down their guard and be more personable to followers.
Kimmelman said she’s seen some brands use a first-person voice when writing captions for Instagram photos to help give off a more genuine feel.
“It’s important to make people laugh or make them look twice at something,” she said. “When you’re scrolling though Instagram (or other social media channels), it’s usually because you’re trying to fill some time. If you can actually make an impact on somebody and make them feel something, you’ve done your job.”
She said her team has experimented with writing first-person captions but will balance it out in order to maintain a level of professionalism.
Kimmelman added that the marketing team should have a thorough understanding of brand guidelines, which will help dictate the type of language to use and which content will be approved by the brand.
Dream will always remain playful and sophisticated, she said, while a more corporate hotel might want to remain more refined.
Another strategy is to monitor who is tagging your property on Instagram and what they post, she said. That proves to be a good way to listen to guests and better understand them.
It’s also key to post content that is in line with active and upcoming on-property campaigns such as pop-up events.
“Based on what people are posting and engaging with, we can determine what sort of content our audience is asking for,” she said. “If we see a ton of engagement on a photo of our Penthouse Suite, we can see that’s something people are really curious about.”
Kimmelman said she prefers using a mix of both original and user-generated content online. She’s seen more influencers rebrand themselves as “content creators,” which can be really valuable for hotels that have a leaner marketing team and budget.
“We can get amazing, high-quality photos (from content creators) for a fraction of the price of a quality photoshoot,” she said.
Jackie Mann, marketing strategy manager for Charlestowne Hotels, said in an email interview she’s seen a rise in highly designed Instagram grids.
“This means the Instagram feed is strategically designed to paint an overall picture of the brand rather than just focusing on one individual post,” she said. “We have taken that into consideration with the design of Hotel Weyanoke’s Instagram channel.”
She added that consistency is key in terms of maintaining an online presence. One of her goals this year is to utilize the Instagram stories function more often to provide snapshots of the day-to-day life at Hotel Weyanoke in Farmville, Virginia.
“This will provide a more realistic vision on what it’s like to stay here,” she said.
The hotel’s Instagram followers interact most with posts that relate to their lives, she added, and on-property events tend to drive the most follower interaction.
Mann said she views social media as an extension of the hotel. Future guests, especially millennials and Gen Z, will browse her hotel’s Instagram and Facebook to get a feel for the hotel.
“That feeling contributes to whether or not a future guest may book with us,” she said.
Kimmelman said Google Analytics shows her how many people are searching on Dream’s different social media channels as well as how many people made a booking through one of those channels.
“In terms of quantifying an exact conversion rate, that’s actually pretty easy,” she said.
She said Instagram has helped to gain direct bookings, though that hasn’t always been the case.
“When social media first started, people were a little hesitant to make a purchase over social media, but now it’s definitely moving to travel,” she said. “We put spend behind social media ads and we see people booking directly through those ads.”
Once guests arrive on property, they expect to see and experience what they saw online, and interior design has a large role in that.
Carla Niemann, SVP of design and architecture at Premier Project Management, said via email most designers innately design for a “photography moment of some sort in their projects.” Some years ago, the Renaissance Hotels brand asked her company to create a “Kodak moment” in every hotel.
“Those Kodak moments of the past have turned into ‘Instagram moments’ of today,” she said. “What has changed is that people are more inclined to travel out of their way to go to find the cool spot that will enhance their online presence, especially when they are out-of-town visitors.”
She said the most successful Instagram moments come from photos that create a sense of fantasy or an “I wish I could be there moment,” she said. This could include a well-plated meal, a luxurious room with over-scaled furniture and dramatic lighting, a breathtaking view, an aesthetically-pleasing bar or fun art, she said.
Lighting, however, is the most important Instagram detail of all, she said.
“No matter how cool the moment is, if it isn’t well-lit, then it’s just a waste,” Niemann said. “The best lighting of all is natural light, preferably indirect or diffused.”
Some examples of successful Instagram moments that Premier Project Management has done include:
- Interactive art installations at the Renaissance Nashville. One allows guests to use strings to mark their travels during the day and another allows guests to create a pattern or word with a block wall.
- Wall decals of avant-garde hairstyles placed on the entry of guestrooms at the W Atlanta allow guests to stand under them and snap a photo.
Mann said Hotel Weyanoke’s lobby and restaurant lends itself to a lot of natural light, allowing for photo opportunities. The hotel’s midcentury modern design and soft pastel couches paired with rich accents throughout the lobby makes for another popular photo location.
“Our rooftop is probably the most photogenic space we have on the property, with a 360-degree view of Farmville, this is a place where people can take photos, enjoy a sunset or snap a shot of their glass of wine,” she said.
Niemann suggests developing a creative space with a few key features, then allow guests to work their magic.